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CAREER VOICES


by Lango Deen ldeen@ccgmag.com


J


ames Gerard “Gerry” Lopez was still in kindergarten in the San Fernando Valley,


California, when General Electric’s J. Stanford Smith put out a call to action in 1972. Smith wanted a tenfold increase in minority engineering graduates within 10 years.


I


n response, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) sponsored a symposium on increasing partici- pation of minorities and women in engineering. Two years later, the University of Notre Dame


hosted a meeting of representatives from research centers, universities, and advocacy organizations to develop methods to increase representation and make sure everyone gets a chance. Lopez attended California State University at


Northridge and earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1988. After that, he landed a great job at NASA’s Jet


Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is the leading center for robotic exploration of the solar system At the time, the JPL had a program where if you were


working as an engineer you could go to the University of Southern California and get a graduate degree at no cost. So Lopez took advantage of his workplace benefits and earned his master’s in electrical engineering in 1990. “I had no plans to continue on with my education,”


Lopez recalled. “But through the Office of Academic Affairs at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory I came upon an opportunity that was offered to minority engineering students to get a Ph.D. at one of a number of colleges that were part of this program. It was called the GEM program.” Lopez applied and was accepted and also got accepted


into the Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. “Through the GEM program I was able to complete


James G. “Jerry” Lopez, Ph.D. Systems and Synthesis Lab GE Global Research


8 USBE&IT | DIGITAL ISSUE 2017


my Ph.D., also in electrical engineering, but with a focus on fiber optics and lasers n 1999,” Lopez said. “I owe that program a lot,” he added.” I probably would not have gone on to do my Ph.D. without them.”


www.blackengineer.com


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